The other day I was driving down the street. To my right I saw a navy blue umbrella tilted on its side on the edge of the road. Upon further inspection I saw that there was an elderly woman underneath it.

She had made herself a bed and was curled up laying on her side. She had a makeshift pillow under her head. Her things, sacks of stuff, surrounded her.

For a moment I wondered why she chose to be imperiled on the side of a road where she could easily get run over. Just beyond the road was a Kwik Trip where they sell gasoline and snacks.

Ah, they probably didn’t want the homeless erecting their temporary homes in their parking lots, I thought.

I went through the McDonalds drive thru across the street from the Kwik Trip. When I paid I asked the woman taking my money if the woman slept there. She said, “Yeah, she’s always there.”

So they’d grown accustomed to the sight of her.

As I sat in line in my car I saw a man walk up to the woman and kneel down to talk to her. Maybe he was telling her about a shelter. Or giving her money. Or telling her to move on.

Whatever it was, he got up and went on about his business. And the umbrella home with the woman underneath it remained in place.

I thought about this driving home. What it might be like to inhabit such a flimsy structure.

I notice every day that the streets are filling up with more and more homeless people.

People who can no longer pay their rent or mortgage because they’ve lost their jobs. Those who have gone through what money they had and hit rock bottom.

Sometimes I see a couple making their way together, dividing their belongings between them. At other times I see a dog laying next to a person holding a sign. Someone pleading for help at the side of a road.

In these uncertain times, there is no longer a moral ambiguity about these people taking to the street. It isn’t because they are alcoholics or drug addicts that they met this fate.

One day things were fine and they had a paycheck and regularly paid their rent. The next day the bottom fell out and the landlord would no longer take excuses and evicted them.

Federal and state eviction bans, put in place during COVID-19, have lapsed.

The legislative branches are arguing over proposals and one body is pitted against another. But time isn’t standing still while people wait for some sort of aid.

These people still have to face the end of the month without their rent payment in hand.

They have to figure out what food they can put on the table today to feed their children.

Desperation is fueling a steep decline in mental health.

Will we see more and more umbrellas dotting the landscape?

When the shelters fill up, will there be someone standing outside them handing out umbrellas to the less fortunate?

Could we be driving by and see someone we know underneath one of the umbrella homes?

Or could our own fortunes change and that person be one of us?

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24 Comments

  1. I rarely see a homeless person where I live, as we’re far away from a city, but I encounter them when I’m in the suburbs closer to the city or the city itself. Just a few weeks ago when we were in another suburb for my husband’s birthday, a man in a wheelchair rolled himself by me and said he was hungry and hadn’t eaten in two days. I could tell the man was mentally ill and probably on drugs. He also obviously wasn’t homeless, as he was clean, had no belongings with him, and dressed as nice and clean as myself. However, I still offered to buy him a meal. There was a restaurant right there by us. He said, “No, I’m allergic to that food.” I laughed. (I knew it wasn’t true.) I gave him $2 just to get rid of him. Brian was mad at me for giving him any money because he was obviously just collecting drug money, but I normally don’t do that.

    An elderly woman under an umbrella though breaks my heart even more. Since you encounter so many homeless in your area, maybe you could make up packets to keep in your car to hand out. Bags with water bottles, packaged snacks, socks, etc. I contribute these items to a local church that has a “blessings box” outside of it for the homeless people.

  2. Yes, it could happen to any one of us. I am fortunate, I have family who would take me in, but – you know – that middle class taboo against asking for help, and oh, the shame of it. And now there is talk that during a second Trump term the “payroll tax” – which funds Social Security and Medicare – would be eliminated. A lot of us are older, some of us are already retired and old enough to be receiving Social Security and are covered by Medicare benefits, the premium for which most of us opt to have deducted from our Social Security benefits every month rather than sending checks to the Federal government for the premiums monthly. What would your finances be like without Social Security and the low monthly premium for health coverage under Medicare?

  3. It is a terrible situation. There are battles everywhere. Our govt here in Australia have extended the relief until March next year fortunately. It will decrease a little due to the fact many whom were working part time say earning $200 per week are now receiving $750 per week from the govt and no incentive to work. Something had to be done immediately to alleviate the financial pressure so this amount was issued carte blanche. When we briefly opening up again here in Melbourne Australia (we are now in complete lockdown again with a curfew), many businesses had issues getting staff again due to the generosity of the govt. The incentive to work wasn’t there. The banks are also in conversation with the govt at the moment as the mortgage relief was mean’t to end at the end of September but given we are back in complete lockdown (at least for our state of Victoria) I think the banks may agree to extend. This follows through to those that pay rent also as long as you have a good landlord.

  4. Hopefully this helps since both sides of Congress could not come together on a relief package.
    President Trump signed an executive order so help would not be delayed any further while congress failed to reach an amicable agreement. Help is on the way. Please read below.
    Aug 8 executive actions
    President Trump Saturday ordered multiple pandemic relief actions by the federal government:

    1. Extend supplemental unemployment benefits, but at $400/week, with states bearing 25% of the cost

    2. Defer FICA payroll taxes through the end of the year for those making less than $100K

    3. Extend a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures where federally backed mortgages are involved

    4. Extend the current interest waiver and payment deferral on federally held student loans through Dec 31

    1. It’s a pretty picture that trump paints, however, where are the states supposed to get the 25% to help the federal government pay for unemployment? Payroll tax funds social security and medicare and to suspend it and possibly make it permanent makes no sense.
      The democrats came out with a plan months ago and the republican party dragged their feet for months thinking this whole pandemic was just going to “go away” and everyone would go get their job back and the economy would boom…and guess what? It didn’t happen.
      Now trump swoops in on his white horse to “save” us all…except congress holds the purse strings…not trump.
      VOTE everyone VOTE. Please.

    2. trump’s payroll tax cut will only benefit Americans who still have a job. The payroll tax cut will NOT help the 18 million Americans who are unemployed due to Covid-19.

  5. Hi Brenda,
    Unfortunately your are so right we will be seeing more and more people homeless. I live in an area that is not wealthy but upper middle class and I have to tell you the streets where I go for groceries and run errands has more and more of these homeless people now. We never would have seen this here in the last few years. It is sad. I have a lady that I see with her dog. That really gets to me when I see they have a pet. Some people think they should give up their pets and not have them living on the streets with them. I say no everything else has been taken from them. A home, money, job and security they do not need their love of their animal taken too. I give the lady a bag of food when I see her. I also have zip lock bags in my trunk with socks, mask, gloves and first aid things that I hand out when I see them. I also try and put in a $5 dollar bill when I have it. The dogs really get to me. I also gave the lady one of Buddy’s dog beds that he does not really like too much and a dog printed blanket and two dog sweaters. She told me the shelter will not take her with her dog and she will not give him up. She said she will go hungry before he does. Broke my heart. So when I see her I try and give her things for the dog so she can take whatever money she gets to help herself. It is sad when we live in a country like ours and we have to see this kind of thing going on. Thanks for posting on this. It is a reality you do not see on the news only the protests and angry horrible things. xoxo Kris

    1. I totally understand this woman not giving up her dog. He is her child, her family. I always said I would live in my car before I would think of giving up my dog. He was my constant companion for 14 years, He went to heaven 3 years ago and I still have a grieving heart and think of him daily. It breaks my heart to see anyone living on the street, but especially women. Makes me want to find her and bring her home with me.

  6. So impossibly sad about the woman and others…and yes, it could happen to anyone of us. It is SO HARD to know how to help others. A few years back we helped a woman at our place of worship…helped her to the tune of a lot of money all total over the course of about 2 years…yes, sometimes she did not ask for our help but a lot of times she did. And about the time we moved away (in order to help our daughter) we learned she had been going to the leader of the congregation (a quite young and not wise person) with many tales about us…whether true or not I do not know…but it DID change things badly for us there…so much so that we would have quit going even if we had not moved away. I have never been quite so burned in my life…and we felt she was our friend. I am not sure we will ever be brave enough to open up like that again. I do wish the govt would help folks however…it would be better than our doing so directly…it would help protect us who are giving, so that the receiver never knew who all was doing the giving and thus maybe insulate one from what happened to us. I do now believe that woman was a sociopath…yet even they need help with food and lodging etc. SO HARD to know what to do…I do agree however with as a rule, not giving money to people…but food, etc. I hope others will not get so burned as we did!!

    1. My dear friend, I have empathy – b/c I have far too frequently been burned, also. However, what helps me through it is knowing that I did the right thing – what God called me to do — and what they do with that, is between them and God — NOT between me and them. And …. that said ….. I’m human and I hurt, too! And I pray that they may develop a conscience that will constantly bedevil them AS WELL AS turn them around!!!

  7. A while back, I observed a couple sleeping and living underneath the side of a high school athletic field two blocks from my home. Every day they would collect their things, hide them in nearby bushes, and go to a church to get food, then go to a nearby shopping center and do some odd jobs for some of those business, just to get by. There was no visible addiction or mental health with the pair. Just a very nice, friendly couple, that I would always greet. I believe they’d rather be together out there, than separated in a shelter.
    They seemed so united; I saw a beauty in that.
    I haven’t seen them since this pandemic began. I pray they are safe somewhere.
    Sometimes you can’t impose yourself on people’s decisions in their lives. Just respect them.

  8. This subject really gets my blood boiling. This is the United States Of America. People risk their lives to seek asylum in this country. We were the leaders of the world. Now this.
    My tax dollars go to a government that takes care of the already filthy rich people and ignores the average working person… people who are the backbone of this country. I am seeing less and less humanity in our country and it grieves me. No one asked for, or could have predicted a global pandemic, but as human beings shouldn’t we help those suffering instead of tossing them into the street? What is the world coming to!

    1. Well said, Gail! Money for July 4th military extravaganzas, “I just made you a whole lot richer” comments….but nothing to take fellow Americans off the streets.

  9. In this time of political corruption and pandemic we are all vulnerable to homelessness. No moral judgements apply. VOTE

  10. I don’t see what good evictions do. Will the landlord get another person to take that apartment or house? I would just call a halt to the charges and let the people stay there. It will probably be better for the people. It will take a year or so to go through the repossessing from the landlord and by that time, the banks will need all the customers they can get. Just leave things in place until this pandemic is over. Then sort it out. Banks and other businesses are silly for trying to act like things are normal right now.

  11. I would have gotten her something to eat also.
    Life is hard for people on a fixed income, many didn’t make the salaries to fund 401 Ks and the like.
    This pandemic has done a number on our country and I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, sadly.

  12. I have put my foot in my mouth so often lately. Someone put a picture of a smart water bottle on Facebook implying people who use this product aren’t smart. I try not to use plastic but there is a time and place to use certain items. I basically agreed with the statement. By reading the comments I learned that brand of water has ingredients which really helps people with migraines and other issues. On to homelessness, it is so sad in any country much less America that there is a need. Sometimes the homeless because of addiction or mental health issues won’t accept food or help. As easy and as noble as it sounds to just go up to the person and offer help or food please be careful and don’t put yourself in danger.

  13. This is very sad.
    We will see more.
    Also when all the aid is gone and the government keeps spending money I fear a depression worst than any thing we have ever seen.

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